By Aimee Chanthadavong

While over half of Australian business owners, including retailers, recognised that the internet offers a world of opportunity for marketing and promotion, only 35 per cent have a business website, the MYOB business monitor for February 2011 has revealed.

The MYOB Business Monitor is a national sample of 1,000 business owners and decision makers. The research was conducted in July/August and October/November 2010.

Speaking to RetailBiz, MYOB Australia and New Zealand general manager Julian Smith said a number of reasons contribute to why businesses don’t see investing in the internet as a top priority.

“We know a majority of businesses know that the internet is an essential part of marketing and it is surprising to see that only two-thirds are visible to their clients because a good third say they don’t have the time or they don’t understand how it works or the money to make it happen. So while they know it’s important, it’s not on their priority list because getting their heads around getting a website up is new territory,” he said.

The research found that the retail and hospitality industry faired equal with the finance and insurance industry with 45 per cent in terms of how many businesses have a website.

It also revealed that the retail and hospitality industry was the highest ranking industry that used the internet for social media purposes to promote their business through outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

According to Smith, for a business to be engaged with the online realm, it provides them with a competitive edge over businesses that are not currently using the internet, assisting them to “work faster and not hard”.

“The internet has become a global phenomenon and an online democracy. The internet can be used through social media as the key channel that enables people to connect with businesses,” he said.

“The internet also empowers consumers with equal access to all the information to review and research. This is why businesses today need to be aware of websites, such as TripAdvisor, where consumers can write about their hotel experience, and the immediacy of social media. At the same time, it’s also an opportunity for retailers to engage in the conversation if they choose to be apart of it.

“Small retailers, in particular, are given the opportunity to enter a levelled playing field and they can present themselves as much bigger businesses and more flexible than the larger competitors.”